The only man who has ever coached both the British and Irish Lions and New Zealand has concerns that Warren Gatland might be about to lead the latest Lions on a suicidal schedule of matches this summer.
Sir Graham Henry, who took charge of the tourists for the 2001 series against Australia, believes that the ten-match tour of New Zealand, which includes the highly anticipated clashes with the All Blacks, could see the Lions come up against strong sides that have nothing to lose and everything to gain from a Lions scalp.
Reported by ESPN, Henry shared his thoughts about what Gatland and his squad will face in June:
“I know from my own experiences how much the players respect getting selected for the Lions.
“It is the pinnacle of their career. It is massive but they need to do well and I just wonder if the itinerary is suicidal.
“They are playing New Zealand Maori, they are playing the five franchise teams – and those five franchise teams have nothing to lose, no pressure on them at all, so they will fire everything at the Lions and take them on.
“Hopefully they [the Lions] have the ability to overcome that. But really when you tour, you need to ensure some momentum is created by results and you just wonder how they are going to go into the test series with that itinerary. It is very demanding.”
The Lions coach has the luxury of selecting one of the strongest squads in recent memory and will announce his initial 37-man panel on Wednesday. Whatever group he does pick for the summer tour, they are faced with a record that has not seem them take a series win over New Zealand since 1971 and has only won two of their last 14 encounters with the double-defending world champions.
Navigating the difficult build-up matches without suffering any significant injuries will be key for the Lions if they are to do anything about addressing that most uncomfortable of records.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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